Is the OSCE capable of reforming itself?

The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) has 57 members and is the largest regional security organization.

OSCE members are not limited to the European continent. This is a characteristic found in several European organizations and in the difficulty for Europeans to find a European identification. Does it make sense to have members who are geographically in the Middle East or North America?

That there are observer countries from continents other than the European continent makes sense, but that they are members who intend to be full members and to be key players is more debatable.

Europeans who have difficulty finding their own leadership tend to solve this problem of lack of European leadership by seeking external leadership. The United States has played this role, both at its own request to prevent European affairs from getting out of control as they did to end 2 world wars and both because some European members play such an external player to assert one or the other position.

Europe in its geographical definition also remains variable geometry. Peter the Great’s Russia wanted to be part of Europe. Putin’s Russia plays sometimes with its Asian dimension, sometimes with its European dimension. Does the European continent integrate all of Russia or from the Atlantic to the Urals? The answer varies according to the times and the interlocutors.

On security, the OSCE has the following main missions:

  • Anticipate and prevent future conflicts
  • enable conflict resolution (from ceasefire to final settlement)

The year 2020 shows that the effectiveness of the OSCE is being questioned. Several events illustrate these problems.

  • In Ukraine, after 6 years of intervention and existence of SMM, there was finally a ceasefire that looks like a real ceasefire on July 27, 2020.
    This ceasefire was a real progress, but when we look at the details, it was only possible by institutionalizing external actors to the OSCE, such as the JCCC, a coordinating body between the belligerents. Overall, if an agency other than the SMM does what the SMM cannot do, it works. The OSCE should have within it everything necessary to manage a ceasefire. Is the OSCE aware of what would have to be changed to achieve this? Not sure, the SMM reports are focused on what the SMM is doing, as if nothing else is needed.
  • In the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan monitored for more than 25 years by the OSCE, there has been a ceasefire, certainly, but not because of the OSCE. And the draft settlement, almost dictated by the military victory, is not especially due to the teams officially in charge of the negotiations under the leadership of the OSCE.

The OSCE remains a link of exchange between all but is not, today, the essential engine of conflict resolution.

The Albanian Presidency 2020 of the OSCE has shown itself to be aware of today’s reality where the OSCE is more in posture or observation than in action and anticipation of future events.

One day or another, this institution will have to be reformed and brought back to its fundamentals. But when and by whom?

November 20, 2020

Leave a Reply